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Messy Paintings and Even Messier Feelings

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To be honest, Jeongguk only worked at the record store because of the recording studio.

Most days he didn’t even get to record anything; he would be too busy organizing and dealing with the unbearable hipster wannabes who only came in to take pictures of the records.

His days were usually long, boring, and repetitive. He’d wake up late, scramble to work, sit through some hours of doing close to nothing, return home, and make music before falling to sleep again.

He enjoyed his life that way. No disturbances. No alterations. No complications.

Yeah, it was a bit lonely at times, but that was why he had Seokjin, Yoongi, and Namjoon. They liked to occasionally stop by his sad little apartment and make sure he was living off something other than cup noodles and coffee.

Jin was a welcome force in Jeongguk’s life, somewhat motherly and caring.

Yoongi was neutral, always slightly grumpy and tired and quiet.

Namjoon, on the other hand, was a nuisance. (In a good way, but Jeongguk would never admit that.)

“We should go out, man! Seriously, we’ve worked on this track enough, c’mon,” he whined and Jeongguk would frown even more.

“But I work tomorrow,” Jeongguk complained, to which Namjoon groaned even louder.

“Take a day off then!” he cried out. Jeongguk only snorted.

“I really need the cash, Namjoon.”

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

“Do not.”

“Do t–”

“Jeongguk just wants to see that cute guy,” Yoongi cut in and Jeongguk instantly took back everything he’d thought about Yoongi being neutral. He was a pest. Damn him.

“Wait, cute guy?!” Namjoon gasped, as expected. Jeongguk let out an annoyed breath.

“There is no cute guy. Jin, please, control them,” he said, to which Jin perked his head up.

“Wait, there’s a cute guy?”

“Oh my God,” Jeongguk yelled, totally not blushing. “Yeah, okay? He comes in sometimes. He’s kind of cute. Leave me alone. I’m not going out.”

“Jeongguk has a cruuush,” Namjoon sang, laughing to himself. Jeongguk didn’t even feel bad when the pillow he threw knocked over his coffee.

 

The truth was that the Cute Guy, as Namjoon began addressing him, came in more often than Jeongguk liked to admit.

Jeongguk, of course, didn’t care.

He didn’t await the Cute Guy’s visit.

He didn’t watch the Cute Guy as he flicked through the different records, earphones in.

He absolutely didn’t watch the Cute Guy’s butt whenever he crouched down to filter through more records.

Not at all.

He was snapped out of his wonderful state of peacefulness when the bell on the door chimed.

“Kookie, please tell me that you’re not busy right now,” Namjoon’s voice sang out. Jeongguk simply responded by thumping his head down on his desk.

“It just so happens that I’m actually overflowing with customers. Please leave,” Jeongguk returned, and, like usual, Namjoon completely ignored him. Jin entered next, looking at Yoongi sheepishly.

“Okay, so, we’re here to–” Namjoon started loudly, but Jin smacked the back of his head before he could continue.

“Shit,” Namjoon stage-whispered, leaning closer to Yoongi and murmuring, “we’re here to see the Cute Guy.”

“Please, please leave,” Jeongguk repeated, already feeling mortified. Namjoon made an offended noise in the back of his throat.

A soft chuckle sounded from the other side of the shop and Jeongguk felt his heart stutter. Cute Guy was suppressing a smile, ducking behind another shelf when he noticed the eyes on him.

“Woah,” Namjoon half-gasped, looking back towards Jeongguk. “He’s way out of your league.”

The two of them bantered for some time, Jin trying to jump into the conversation occasionally. Jeongguk almost forgot that Cute Guy was in the store, until–

“Excuse me? I’ll take this one,”  his deep voice suddenly said, snapping Jeongguk out of his argument with Namjoon.

There he was, standing in front of Jeongguk, with his lavender hair mussed gorgeously and the faintest bit of dark kohl lining his eyes. After a quick once-over, Jeongguk blessed every god out there; his too-big, torn up black jumper was slipping off his shoulder deliciously and hints of skin showed around his torso where the holes were. His black skinny jeans were also shredded, the rips starting just under his knee and running up to his thighs.

“Yeah!” Jeongguk practically yelped, tearing his eyes away from Cute Guy to ring up his record.

“I’ve been waiting for you guys to come out with this one forever,” Cute Guy laughed, his voice so low and smooth that Jeongguk found himself  melting.

Which, he thought to himself, was absolutely disgusting.

“Mmm,” was all he muttered back, refusing to admit that Cute Guy was choosing a really good album to buy.

“You can keep the change,” Cute Guy told him, making Jeongguk’s eyebrow raise slightly.

“Are you sure? That’s a lot–” he began, more out of obligation than anything else, but Cute Guy waved a hand at him, sending a boxy grin his way that actually fucking blinded Jeongguk.

“Yeah, I really love this store! Seriously, it’s great,” Cute Guy laughed, taking the bag from Jeongguk. Like some sort of gross-ass romance flick, their hands brushed together slightly, making Jeongguk clench his jaw.

“Thank you! See you around too, Namjoon!” he said with a wink, turning and making his way out the door. Jeongguk was left gaping, but after Namjoon slapped him on the arm he remembered to call out a polite, “have a nice day!”

The second that the door clicked shut Namjoon was ruffling Jeongguk’s hair and shaking his head.

“You’re so whipped, dude. Kim Taehyung of all people. I can’t believe this.”

 

“Seriously, the police need to catch this kid,” Jeongguk’s boss yelled, throwing up his hands. Jeongguk simply rolled his eyes, making a half-assed noise of agreement.

“I mean, look at this! It’s horrible for publicity!” His boss continued, grumbling away and making gestures towards the array of colours on the alleyway wall.

An infamous graffiti artist named V had been springing up all over town. His paintings were complex for a graffiti artist; the emotions obviously poured into them were personal and intense, something that others could admire but never fully understand.

This particular painting was mostly black and white. A bridge, with the silhouette of a boy standing on the edge of it. The only colour in it was underneath the bridge. Swirls of  pastel pinks and blues and purples, interrupted only by the hastily done “V” in bright red.

Jeongguk found himself slightly curious. If the kid could do this with spray paint, what could they do on actual paper?

“I’m sure the police will catch the kid eventually,” Jeongguk said without much interest. His boss huffed, stomping back inside the store. Jeongguk stayed for a moment, staring at the wall with mild interest. His coworker, a young girl named Jihyo, giggled beside him.

“You’re looking at it the way you look at the recording studio,” she observed, standing awkwardly close to Jeongguk. He laughed politely, backing away slightly and giving her a shrug.

“It’s not bad,” he murmured before turning around and following his boss, hearing Jihyo close behind.

Jeongguk, buzzing with excitement, waved to Jihyo as she took off. Today was one of the days where he was allowed to use the recording studio. It really wasn’t anything special, but the feel of producing music was one that Jeongguk could never tire of.

His boss left with a grumble and a wave of his hand, leaving Jeongguk to do his thing.

Yoongi showed up about ten minutes later and together they worked. For hours. Writing and composing and recording.

It wasn’t like his and Yoongi’s songs would ever go anywhere, he knew that. Yet here he was, pouring out all of his feelings in a harsh verse. It entranced him, really. The way that he could sing everything that he couldn’t say and nobody would know it. He found himself falling into a reverie, enjoying himself more than he ever had before.

Yoongi left after two hours, saying something about a date, which Jeongguk would have usually teased him about if not for the promise of a finished song on his hands.

Jeongguk had no intentions of stopping until this track was finished.

He would have continued for the whole night if a thud hadn’t made him jump.

Jeongguk whipped off his headphones to see the one and only Cute Guy, Kim Taehyung, blushing and bending to swoop up a record that he’d dropped.

“I-I’m sorry, I was just- coming to- and- it was- your music is really good!” Taehyung stuttered. Jeongguk found himself resisting the urge to chuckle, his heart stuck in his throat.

“Oh, thanks. What was it that you wanted?” he asked, internally smacking himself for sounding rude. Taehyung flinched slightly, shaking his head.

“I was just out and I– well, hah. Honestly? The store was open and I was hoping that you’d be here,” he admitted, looking up at Jeongguk through his dark eyelashes and ohmygod Jeongguk was actually blushing.

“Well, here I am,” Jeongguk said, stretching his arms. “Did you wanna get some food?”

Taehyung looked astonished. “Yes! I mean, uh, yeah, that sounds cool. Food. Yeah.”

“My name’s Jeon Jeongguk, by the way,” he introduced, holding out his hand. Taehyung scrambled over to him, almost dropping the record again while sticking his own hand in Jeongguk’s.

“Kim Taehyung! Nice to meet you,” he greeted. And then, oh boy , then he flashed Jeongguk with a wide grin, all teeth and eye crinkles and Jeongguk felt the urge to actually squint at the brightness of it.

It was full of so much raw emotion, so much joy, that Jeongguk was stunned into silence, memorizing every small feature. The slight curve of one of his teeth, the dip of his nose, the slight smudge of his makeup. Yet, as the smile dulled slightly and Taehyung opened his eyes, Jeongguk felt like he needed to see it again. To be the cause of that disgusting (beautiful, ethereal, dazzling) smile.

For research.

Obviously.

“So, what do you like to eat?” Taehyung asked him, but it was the feeling of Taehyung’s hand leaving his own that had snapped Jeongguk back to reality. On impulse, Jeongguk tightened his grip, making Taehyung’s eyes widen comically. With an awkward cough, Jeongguk entwined their fingers, walking briskly out of the shop and dragging Taehyung along with him.

“I-I know a place,” Jeongguk stuttered in embarrassment, his own eyes widening when Taehyung let out a small giggle while picking up his pace to walk beside Jeongguk and swinging their hands together.

“So, what’s your favourite movie?” Taehyung asked out of the blue, making Jeongguk frown.

“That’s a… random question,” he retorted. Taehyung gasped, holding his free hand to his chest.

“Excuse me, Jeon Jeongguk-” (Jeongguk refused to acknowledge the butterflies taking flight in his stomach at the sound of  his name leaving Taehyung’s lips)– “but this is vital information. Everything else can wait.”

“Uhm, I don’t know. I don’t watch many movies,” he told Taehyung with a shrug. Taehyung hummed, nodding as if processing the information.

“Well. We’ll have to change that,” Taehyung decided in a firm voice.

“You sound disappointed. What’s wrong with not liking movies?” Jeongguk grunted, narrowing his eyes at Taehyung. The lilac-haired boy looked away, whistling under his breath.

“Nothingggg,” he sang, his voice a deep timbre. Jeongguk snorted.

“Liar,” he muttered. Taehyung only laughed. “What’s your favourite movie then?”

Taehyung scrunched up his face for a moment, deep in thought, before nodding and letting out a confident, “Bambi.”

Jeongguk stared at him.

“Bambi.”

“Bambi!”

“I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched that,” Jeongguk admitted and Taehyung made an offended noise.

“You’ve never seen Bambi?!” He screeched, drawing the eyes of a few other passerbys on the street. Jeongguk hushed him quickly, pouting.

“No? I never cared enough,” Jeongguk said, causing Taehyung to make a noise frighteningly similar to a sob.

“Okay, that settles it. Second date, we’re watching Bambi,” Taehyung told him. Jeongguk raised an eyebrow, that gross blush rising to his cheeks again.

“Date?”

“Well, duh. I mean, that’s what this is, isn’t it? Cause like, we’re holding hands, and I only went to that record store because of you, and don’t pretend like you never stared at my ass–”

“Okay, you win, it’s a date, oh my God,” Jeongguk groaned, looking away so Taehyung wouldn’t see how red his face was.

“Aww, don’t be embarrassed. I checked you out whenever I could too,” Taehyung cooed and Jeongguk wanted to be swallowed by the ground.

“Yeah, okay, sure,” Jeongguk murmured and Taehyung let out a small noise of protest.

“Seriously! You’re really hot. And knowing that you make music now too, I just, ah. You don’t seem real. All brooding and mysterious and attractive,” Taehyung sighed and Jeongguk actually thought he was going to die.

“That’s rich, coming from you. You’re literal walking sex, it’s annoying,” Jeongguk retorted, taking him a second to realize what exactly he had just said.

“I’m taking that as a compliment, thank you very much,” Taehyung purred and Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “And just so you know, I don’t go on random dates with just anyone. You should feel honoured.”

“Oh, believe me, I’m very honoured,” Jeongguk said and Taehyung laughed again, surprising Jeongguk. He didn’t think that he’d ever be here, talking and laughing with the Cute Guy from his record store, and not because of how hot Taehyung was; Jeongguk simply believed that he’d never fall in love. He thought he was so bland and uneventful that nobody bothered giving him a second glance. Yet here was Taehyung, laughing at the borderline rude comments, sending that beaming, rectangular grin his way.

“So, back to my interrogation,” Taehyung giggled and they made small talk the rest of the way to the small cafe. Jeongguk found himself enjoying Taehyung’s company. He was a good talker; he filled up the silences, yet still managed to include Jeongguk, prompting him to share about himself faster than he ever had before. Granted, nothing they were saying was truly deep or meaningful.

By the time they got to the cafe, they were onto the topic of cats vs dogs.

“But, think; will cats go on walks with you?” Taehyung argued, gaping at Jeongguk as he held the door open.

“Walks suck anyways,” Jeongguk grunted and Taehyung snickered.

“Jeongguk! Your usua– Taehyung?!” The barista– a boy named Park Jimin– gasped. Taehyung tensed up immediately, his head snapping up to stare at the orange-haired boy.

“Jimin?! Oh wow, funny seeing you here,” Taehyung laughed, but he was giving Jimin a look that Jeongguk couldn’t read.

“I didn’t know you two knew each other,” Jimin said with a lilt to his voice and Taehyung made another face.

“Haha, we do, now if–”

“Are you on a date?” Jimin sang and Taehyung groaned.

“I swear to God–”

“I’ll get you both your usuals, on the house. Have fun, TaeTae,” Jimin giggled, causing Taehyung to give him a sharp smile while dragging Jeongguk away.

Once seated Jeongguk sent Taehyung a raised eyebrow.

“TaeTae?” Jeongguk questioned. Taehyung dropped his head onto the table with a thud.

“I’ve known Jimin since we were kids,” Taehyung admitted, lifting his head slightly to peek at Jeongguk through his bangs. “He refuses to let it go.”

“That’s cute,” Jeongguk found himself saying, regretting the slip immediately.

“Cute, huh?” Taehyung giggled, a rosy hue rising on his cheeks. Jeongguk blushed too, either at the embarrassing comment or simply getting the pleasure of watching Kim fucking Taehyung blush.

Unfortunately, their moment was interrupted.

“This is so gay,” Jimin laughed, setting down their coffees. “Please, continue. It’s like a romance drama. I’m living for this.”
“Park Jimin, I swear to God, I’m going to tell everybody about that–” Taehyung started, head still down, and Jimin squawked suddenly.

“Yep, that’s my cue. Have fun being sappy and disgusting,” he yelped, scurrying away.

“So, how do you know Jimin?” Taehyung asked and Jeongguk shrugged.

“Just from this place,”  he admitted, taking a sip of his coffee. “I come here often.”

“I’m surprised we haven’t run into each other,” Taehyung frowned. “Are you in school?”

“Yeah, my first year. Music major,” Jeongguk said and Tae huffed.

“I’m in my second year, art major. I can’t believe I’ve never seen you outside of the record shop,” he said. Jeongguk just shrugged again, still processing the fact that Taehyung was an art major.

“Wait, since you’ve heard my music does that mean that I get to see your art?” Jeongguk asked. Taehyung choked.

“Uh, it’s not- I- I mean–” Taehyung stuttered, eyes widening. Jeongguk was a bit shocked, but didn’t get to say anything because Jimin interrupted once again.

“Sorry to intrude, but I brought cookies,” he announced, sliding a chair beside Taehyung with a grin on his face.

“Ohhh,” Taehyung sang excitedly, back to being himself. Jeongguk watched as Jimin and Taehyung fought over the M&M’s cookie, glaring at each other fiercely.

“Well! How did you two meet?” Jimin asked and Jeongguk immediately scoffed.

“I mean, we started talking…” he glanced at his watch, “two hours ago?” Taehyung nodded, making an affirmative noise, too focused on his cookie to do much else. Jimin looked between them a few times, eyebrows furrowed.

“But I thought this was a date?” he practically whined and Jeongguk gave him a shrug.

“It is,” Taehyung supplied. Jimin threw his arms in the air.

“Okay. Y’know what? Whatever. How’re you enjoying your date so far?” Jimin asked instead and Taehyung and Jeongguk shared a look.

“It was better before you showed up,” Taehyung admitted, voice light and playful and Jimin made a loud gasp.

“Cold, so cold. Alright, I get it. I’m going,” he cried in mock sadness, standing up. He looked at the two, a pout on his face. “I’m meeting Yoongi anyways, I don’t need your negative attitudes in my life.”

“Wait, so you–” Jeongguk started in shock, but Jimin was already signing himself out at the counter.

“Bye!” he called out, waving his fingers at them. Jeongguk slumped back into his chair, turning his attention back towards Taehyung.

“I hate him,” Taehyung grumbled, finishing off his cookie angrily. Jeongguk laughed, warmth filling his chest.

They ended up talking for so long that another waiter came over, smiling at them and asking if they’d like another drink. They both ordered some sort of latte, not really caring enough to read about the drink, more engrossed in their conversations. They didn’t even notice that the waiter had accidentally switched their drinks until they were taking small sips and Taehyung made a squeaking noise.

“Woah, this isn’t mine,” he declared, taking another sip anyways. Jeongguk laughed, taking a sip of his– Taehyung’s?– drink, finding it to be not bad.

“Y’know, this isn’t horrible. A little sugary, but the whipped cream is nice,” Jeongguk told him, nodding in approval. Taehyung hummed, sipping his– Jeongguk’s?– drink again.

“Yours is decent too. Kind of bitter,” he pouted, drinking more of it anyways. Jeongguk laughed, taking a big gulp and scorching his tongue, not really caring. When he put his cup down again, Taehyung giggled at him, setting his own cup down as well.

“You got some on your face,” he laughed, and before Jeongguk could try to wipe it off himself, Taehyung was leaning across the table, his thumb swiping slowly across Jeongguk’s lower lip. A surprised gasp left him, his body tensing, eyes wide as he watched Taehyung collect the leftover whipped cream on his thumb.

Jeongguk felt like dying.

Just when he thought it wouldn’t get any worse, Taehyung sat back down, looking at Jeongguk through his eyelashes and– holy shit – sucking his thumb into his mouth, licking off all the whipped cream that had previously been on Jeongguk’s mouth.

It was like something straight out of a goddamn porno.

Taehyung grinned slyly at him, using his index finger to scoop up some more whipped cream from Jeongguk’s cup and smear it on his own lower lip.

“My turn,” he muttered quietly, looking at Jeongguk with a challenge in his eyes.

Jeongguk leaned forwards, taking his time in letting his finger trace the shape of Taehyung’s lips, feeling the smoothness accented by the slip of the cream. With a faint blush and a smirk, he placed his finger on Taehyung’s tongue gently, letting the older boy taste the whipped cream. Taehyung’s eyes widened, obviously taken aback by Jeongguk’s actions, but once the shock wore off, he grinned around Jeongguk’s finger, licking off the last of the whipped cream lazily like a kitten. Jeongguk resisted the urge to yelp, taking his hand back before he found himself in a very bad position.

“U-Um,” Jeongguk stuttered, and Taehyung laughed again, still eyeing Jeongguk in a way that made him shiver.

“You know,” Taehyung purred, stirring around his own drink, cheek resting in his hand, “I wouldn’t be opposed to ordering this drink again.”

 

“But did I mention the way his lips felt? They were like- like pillows. They were fucking soft . How are lips soft?” Jeongguk sighed, staring at his ceiling.

“Aren’t they usually supposed to be soft?” Seokjin asked from the kitchen (again, because all Seokjin ever did was cook and all Jeongguk, Namjoon and Yoongi ever did was eat). Jeongguk let out a dramatic whine, rolling over on his bed.

“No, you don’t understand. Oh, and his laugh, it’s like music. Better than anything I’ve ever written–” Jeongguk went on, and Yoongi let out a loud groan from where he lay on the couch in the other room.

“Christ Jeongguk, shut the fuck up before I kill something. It’s one A.M. and I want to sleep,” he called out. Jeongguk huffed.

“You’re just mad because I finally got to go on a da– wait, didn’t you go out with that barista?!” Jeongguk recalled suddenly, sitting up and scampering over to where Yoongi was buried in a mountain of blankets.

“No, shut up,” he groaned, and Jeongguk laughed, poking around at where he assumed Yoongi’s body was.

“Jimin, right? He and Taehyung are friends. He makes good coffee,” Jeongguk hummed and Yoongi snorted in response.

“He spilled it on me,” Yoongi admitted. Jeongguk laughed again.

“That’s cute! See, we’re both gonna have boyfriends soon and ‘Joonie and Jin are practically married already–”

“Oi- you–”

“We are not–”

“We can go on cute triple dates together!” Jeongguk finished, clapping his hands. Namjoon walked over to Jeongguk and firmly slapped him over the head.

“We’re going out,” Namjoon declared, ignoring Jeongguk’s whine of pain. “I don’t care what you say. You've been sitting in here for three days now–”

“Hey, I don’t wanna seem desperate, okay? It’s not like I can see him again right after the date–”

“Jeongguk. Not my point. You need to go out. Do something other than school or work,” Namjoon pleaded. Jeongguk whined, trying to sneak his way into Yoongi’s blanket cocoon.

“Groceries, yeah?” Namjoon prodded, already throwing a sweater and shoes towards Jeongguk while squishing his feet into his own pair of sneakers. “You’ve got, like, no food. We need food to live.”

 

Twenty minutes later Jeongguk wanted to scream.

“See. Do you see this. Are you actually seeing this,” Jeongguk hissed, ignoring Namjoon’s barks of laughter.

There was Kim fucking Taehyung, standing behind a cash register, laughing cheerfully with a customer. Even though it was one A.M. and everybody else in the store looked half dead, there was Taehyung, grinning his boxy grin and laughing while handing the man his change.

“Have a lovely night, sir! I hope your kids feel better!” Taehyung called out as the man left.

“Fucking kill me he’s so kind,” Jeongguk groaned, still half hiding behind a shelf.

“Look, we need to buy this,” Namjoon laughed, picking up a package of ramen and sauntering towards Taehyung.

“Namjoon I swear to god–” Jeongguk started, but Namjoon was already at Taehyung, smiling.

“Oh, hello, Taehyung!” Namjoon practically sang, and Taehyung jumped. His eyes were wide, despite the late hour, and his lavender hair was mussed more than usual.

“Hey! Oh, lord, I’m glad you stopped by. I am actually going to pass out,” Taehyung sighed, leaning heavily on the counter. Namjoon laughed, leaning in as well so that he was close to Taehyung and Jeongguk was honestly going to kill him.

“See, we were at Jeongguk’s house and he seems to have no sustainable food. Hey, when does your shift end?” Namjoon asked casually and Taehyung furrowed his brow.

“Uh, around two I think,” he answered, obviously unsure, and Namjoon laughed.

“Hey, you don’t have any classes tomorrow, do you? You should come over to Jeongguk’s place. We’ll play some video games or something,” Namjoon offered and Jeongguk instantly choked on his spit before frantically scampering over to prevent the situation from becoming any more catastrophic.

“Hey, Taehyung,” Jeongguk practically groaned.

“Um, hi. And Namjoon, I’m down for that,” Taehyung said, obviously somewhat confused at their strange interaction. Jeongguk resisted the urge to actually wail.

“Perfect! See, Jeongguk here had been positively–”

“Hey I’m gonna buy this,” Jeongguk said obnoxiously loud, cutting off Namjoon. Taehyung, his eyebrows still furrowed (adorably, damn) in confusion, nodded.

“Uh, yeah. You kind of have to… put it on the counter?” Taehyung drawled, a tint of amusement in his deep voice. Jeongguk practically threw it at him.

Once they’d paid and taken back the singular package of ramen without incident, Jeongguk let out a breath.

“See you soon, I guess,” Taehyung laughed, and thankfully Namjoon answered.

“Yeah! Later Tae, I’ll text you Jeongguk’s address,” he sang, practically sprinting after Jeongguk.

“I hate you. I hope you fall into a pit of red ants. I hope you breathe in so many ants that they clog your lungs and you choke to death. I hope you–” Jeongguk started.

“I scored you a date, you brat,” Namjoon grumbled. Jeongguk waved his arms around, squawking in distress. Namjoon smacked him.

“You gotta act a lot more chill if you wanna get some dick,” Namjoon sighed, making Jeongguk sputter.

“I don’t just want him for his dick,” Jeongguk cried and Namjoon snorted.

“Yeah, and I don’t just want Seokjin for his cooking,” he retorted. Jeongguk made another distressed noise.

“I’m gonna die,” Jeongguk groaned.

“I mean, at least we have ramen,” Namjoon argued.

 

“He’s going to be here soon and it is a mess I am disowning all of you please end my suffering,” Jeongguk practically sobbed. Jin rubbed his back soothingly, glaring at Namjoon and Yoongi.

“I mean, he’s a college kid too. I don’t think he’ll mind the mess,” Jin reassured. Jeongguk would have retaliated if a knock on the door didn’t scare him to death.

“Oh. My. God. He’s early, Jin, please,” Jeongguk cried, scampering around, shoving his mess under the bed.

“I’ve got it,” Yoongi called out and Jeongguk shrunk in on himself even further.

“Oh no,” Jin stage-whispered. Jeongguk felt himself accepting his demise.

“You know,” Jeongguk growled, “I hope you realize that you’re crushing any hope of being in a relationship for me. Like. This is far too embarrassing for anyone to handle–”

“Damn, I get why Jeongguk was losing his shit over you,” Yoongi said to Taehyung from the other room and Jeongguk smashed his head into the wall.

“I am so sorry,” he yelled out only to be met with a laugh from Taehyung.

“Wow, I’m flattered,” Taehyung giggled, finally walking into the room behind Yoongi.

Jeongguk stopped breathing.

His hair was mussed still and he was makeup-less, but instead of his work clothes he was wearing black skinny jeans and a cream-coloured sweater. There was a long, clean cut in the shoulder of the sweater, obviously put there on purpose. It was so domestic and angelic and pure that Jeongguk wanted to rip his eyes out.

“Hi, I’m Taehyung,” he introduced, smiling blindingly. Even Seokjin was somewhat taken aback.

“Nice to meet you! I’m Seokjin, but you can just call me Jin if you’d like,” Jin supplied, trotting over to shake Taehyung’s hand. Jeongguk felt the need to separate them.

“So, you live close, I’m assuming?” Jeongguk asked and Taehyung shrugged.

“Yeah, it’s only a ten minute walk,” he laughed. Jeongguk smiled, leading him to the floor in front of the TV. Namjoon already had the wii set up.

“Alright, we’re ready to go,” he declared, throwing controllers at everyone. Yoongi had somehow found some sort of alcoholic beverage and was giving out cups of it.

“Hey, woah, you play as Princess Peach?” Jeongguk snorted at Taehyung, rolling his eyes. Taehyung gasped loudly, eyes wide.

“Excuse me sir? Peach is a great character. Piss off,” he retorted, crossing his arms and pouting in a way that made Jeongguk actually evaporate.

“I’m gonna crush you,” Jeongguk promised, choosing Waluigi with pride. Taehyung choked on his drink.

“You’re making fun of me for being Peach when you use Waluigi? Who do you think you are?!” Taehyung snorted. Namjoon picked Bowser, Jin picked Yoshi, Yoongi chose to lay on the couch and pretend to be asleep. Soon enough they were all screaming at the TV with varying levels of  anger. Seven rounds in and Taehyung had won every single one of them.

“I can’t believe this! How can you win using Peach?!” Jeongguk yelled, standing up in his fury. Taehyung grinned smugly, giving a cool shrug.

“What can I say? I am a God,” Taehyung deadpanned before his face fell. “Oh, shit, my controller’s dead.”

“Oh, shit,” Jeongguk repeated.

“We don’t have any others, we’ll just have to take turns now. You can have mine, if you want,” Jin offered sweetly from his place resting between Namjoon’s legs.

“Ah, no, it’s fine; I’ll just watch you guys crush Jeongguk now,” Taehyung teased. Jin laughed, leaning forward to ruffle Taehyung’s hair. Jeongguk pouted.

“Hey, Tae, are you comfy? Wanna move to the couch?” Jeongguk offered. Taehyung shrugged.

“Yeah, sure,” he agreed smoothly. Jin raised an eyebrow at Jeongguk, obviously caught off guard by his protectiveness.

Jeongguk settled down a respectable distance from Taehyung, not wanting to make things awkward or weird, but within seconds Taehyung was scooting closer, lying down to rest his head on Jeongguk’s thigh.

I am deceased. I am dead. My life is over, Jeongguk thought, watching the way Taehyung’s lavender locks fell over the material of his own pants. Taehyung turned so that he was looking up at Jeongguk, eyes wide, a slight blush on his cheeks.

“Is this okay?” he asked quietly, only for Jeongguk to hear.

“Yeah! I mean, yeah, it’s uh. Good,” Jeongguk replied, looking back up at the TV.

Taehyung giggled as he rolled onto his side to see the race.

Jeongguk got dead last.

It totally wasn’t because of Taehyung’s hot breaths on his thigh, or the way his slender fingers were tracing circles onto Jeongguk’s knee, or the way he shifted even closer every so often.

A few rounds later, Taehyung’s movements slowed. Jeongguk didn’t notice when he rolled over again, too engrossed in the game (and refusing to look down at Taehyung for the sake of his own sanity). It wasn’t until Jin and Namjoon went to leave that Jeongguk noticed that Taehyung’s eyes were shut.

“Jin,” Jeongguk hissed, eyes wide and distressed. Jin looked over, confused.

“What?”

“He’s asleep. What the fuck. What do I do?!” Jeongguk panicked quietly, ignoring Namjoon’s snickers.

“Just let him sleep here, yeah? But share the bed, be a good host,” Jin said warmly, walking over to pat Jeongguk’s head. “Don’t wake him, he’s cute when he sleeps.”

“Yeah no shit,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

Jeongguk woke up to the smell of pancakes and the panicked thought of  “what the fuck nobody lives with me why do I smell pancakes.”

It took two whole minutes for the events of last night to come crashing back to him.

Taehyung. In his bed with him. Sleeping next to him.

Cooking pancakes in his kitchen.

Wearing only boxers and a sweater.

Long, toned legs on display, sweater hanging too big off his body, and–

Oh, dear God, that was Jeongguk’s sweater. It hung too big on him, neck and collarbones on full display, hands engulfed in the sleeves.

Jeongguk was going to faint.

“Oh, Jeongguk, you’re awake! I felt bad about passing out so I decided to make food!” Taehyung chirped, way too functional for somebody who woke up less than a half hour ago. Jeongguk made a small, strangled noise in the back of his throat, brushing past Taehyung to grab a cup.

“Thank you,” he mumbled, chugging down some water. When Jeongguk looked over again, Taehyung was blushing, eyes downcast.

“Um, I just took your sweater ‘cause I couldn’t find anything else and– um– it kind of smelled good, so, I–” Taehyung rambled, talking so fast that Jeongguk struggled to keep up.

“Keep it,” Jeongguk interrupted. “It looks better on you anyways.”

Nice, Jeongguk thought smugly, enjoying watching the blush on Taehyung’s cheeks spread even further. They fell into a comfortable silence, Taehyung cooking and Jeongguk watching him while pretending not to watch him. Once it was ready, they ate together. Taehyung holding up the conversation and Jeongguk staying immersed completely. The way Taehyung spoke was captivating; his deep voice rumbled so wonderfully, every syllable gracing Jeongguk’s ears, every tiny chuckle sending his heart into a frenzy.  Taehyung was so passionate, waving his hands around to emphasize certain points, eyes shining with the intensity of his stories, overflowing with adoration and excitement. Yet, despite his ramblings, he always made sure that Jeongguk was a part of the conversation too, asking him things and listening with the same amount of interest. Jeongguk was awed, so completely captivated that they continued talking after their meal was done, doing the dishes side-by-side.

Jeongguk found himself wondering why Kim Taehyung was so different. He’d dated before, here and there, boys and girls that his mother decided were a good match, but none of them held Jeongguk’s attention. To be honest, he’d been contemplating the fact that maybe he had no romantic interest whatsoever. But suddenly there was Kim Taehyung, so bright and riveting and exquisite that Jeongguk was completely swept away.

“Oh, shit,” Taehyung yelped suddenly, pulling a vibrating phone out of the sweater's pocket. He sent Jeongguk an apologetic glance before answering.

“Hoseok? Yeah, I’m– No, I didn’t, I texted you and said that I’d be busy. It’s not that important anyways,” Taehyung was mumbling. Jeongguk tuned out politely, not wanting to intrude.

“Sorry, Kookie, I’ve gotta go,” Taehyung sighed. Jeongguk smiled at him, not letting his disappointment show.

“No worries! Do you want me to walk you home?” Jeongguk asked, jumping at Taehyung’s loud answer.

“No! I mean, I’ll be fine, really,” Taehyung laughed, but it wasn't the same. His voice was shaky, the natural brightness gone. Jeongguk didn’t like the tense smile on Taehyung’s face, the way he curled in on himself slightly.

“Sorry for keeping you so long,” Jeongguk said, changing the subject fast. Taehyung relaxed somewhat, but the newly built wall he put up remained.

“No, no, I had fun, really. Thank you,” Taehyung muttered, shoving his feet in his shoes. Jeongguk watched him go with a small wave, biting the inside of his cheek.

 

Time spent with Taehyung seemed to simultaneously last forever and speed by in the span of a second.

Jeongguk realized this fact when he and Taehyung had ventured to a zoo on his birthday.

It had all been Taehyung’s idea, unsurprisingly.  A quick text of ‘yo my dude we r all goin to the zoo tomorrow u should come or else i’ll fight u’ and Jeongguk found himself dropping all of the plans he’d previously made to accompany the elder. (He had to explain to his mother why he was going to be busy on his birthday for once.) He didn’t really know who ‘we’ was, but as long as Taehyung was there, Jeongguk was excited to go.

When Taehyung showed up at his apartment the next day, hair tucked gloriously into a backwards snapback and a backpack slung over his shoulder, Jeongguk’s first words were,

“We?”

“Um, looks like everyone else bailed. So, ‘we’ is us!” Taehyung cheered, sticking his tongue out when Jeongguk poked his ribs.

“Okay then, you nerd, let’s go.”

The bus ride was peaceful with him and Tae crammed together in the crowded vehicle. They sat for most the ride until an elderly woman got on and Taehyung jumped to offer his seat. He smiled at the woman, his voice a chorus of “no, I insist, our stop is soon anyways, really, please sit!” Jeongguk felt something akin to pride and affection swelling in his throat.

When they arrived at their stop the lady patted Jeongguk’s knee, giving him a knowing smile with a tilt of her chin in Taehyung’s direction.

“Thank him for me,” she said and Jeongguk nodded, smiling brightly at her.

When he stepped off the bus, Taehyung was frowning curiously, blinking at the retreating vehicle.

“What happened?” he asked, frowning even further when Jeongguk grinned. He ruffled Taehyung’s hair, ignoring the other boy’s protests.

They spent their first few hours walking around, Jeongguk chuckling at Taehyung’s entranced ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s. He liked the birds the most, giggling and saying his name in a vain attempt to get them to mimic it.

“C’mon, Kookie, I wanna see the giraffes! They’re my favourite,” Taehyung declared, snatching up Jeongguk’s hand and leading the raven-haired boy at a quick pace.

“Why?” Jeongguk questioned, completely interested in Taehyung’s reasoning. To his surprise, Taehyung slowed down a bit, his grip wavering.

“My dad used to love them. He’d always show me how to paint them, how to get their spots right and stuff...” Taehyung trailed off, his voice mostly nostalgic, a hint of sadness buried within. Jeongguk decided to keep the conversation going, interested in some background on Taehyung.

“He taught you how to paint?” Jeongguk muttered softly, squeezing himself a bit closer to Tae as they walked. Taehyung hummed softly, leaning into Jeongguk’s side, letting their hands go in favour of Jeongguk’s arm wrapping around his shoulders.

“Yeah, we... we spent a lot of time together, before he got sick, playing and drawing. He was really artistic, always teaching me new ways to interpret things,” Taehyung mumbled. He paused, taking a bit of a shaky breath before continuing. “He passed away when I was eleven after battling lung cancer for two years.”

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk said as an obligation and Taehyung laughed.

“Thanks. But hey, he taught me everything I know, so it’s not all bad!” he sighed. Jeongguk smiled down at him, rubbing a hand over his shoulder.

“I think the giraffes are up there. We should feed them, yeah?” Jeongguk offered, watching as Taehyung brightened immediately.

“Yes!” he chirped, dashing ahead once again.

His eyes were comically wide when they caught sight of the large animals, practically vibrating.

“Kookie, they’re so big,” he gasped out, mouth in a pretty little ‘o’ shape. Jeongguk laughed again, burying his nose in Taehyung’s mop of hair.

Taehyung ended up paying for the food, much to Jeongguk’s displeasure.

“You paid for us to get in, bro, c’mon. I was the one who asked you out, I need to pay for the overpriced giraffe nuggets,” he’d argued, jaw jutting out slightly in determination. Jeongguk had raised an eyebrow.

“You asked me out? I thought everyone bailed,” Jeongguk teased, grinning even more when Taehyung flushed.

“I mean, like, a– a social outing,” he stuttered, smacking Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Just let me feed the giraffes, okay?!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jeongguk chuckled, kicking Taehyung’s (fantastic, perky) butt gently when he scampered ahead.

Once they’d found a nice giraffe, Taehyung poured some of the kibble-stuff into his palm, holding it up over his head. The giraffe looked over, obviously bored, and licked Taehyung’s hand experimentally. Taehyung let out a repressed giggle, his face the embodiment of pure joy.

His face turned to shock when the giraffe got a bit too eager, clamping down on his finger.

“Ow!” Taehyung yelped, bringing his now empty, slightly spit-covered hand back to his body. “Excuse you, sir.”

“Tae–” Jeongguk laughed, his ribs hurting from cackling so much. Taehyung ignored him, pouting at the animal, who huffed. The giraffe bonked Taehyung’s head with its nose, obviously looking for more food. Taehyung scoffed at it, waving the empty cup around.

“I don’t have any more, you bully,” he whined. The giraffe huffed again, turning to leave. Taehyung dropped the cup in the trash, turning back towards a cackling Jeongguk, one side of his hair sticking up.

“The giraffe didn’t like me,” he pouted, looking like he was trying to hold back a laugh. “Quit laughing!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, just–” Jeongguk wheezed, lurching forward to wrap his arms around the elder, still chuckling.

“I like you, don’t worry. The giraffe was a bully, yeah?” he sighed, still out of breath. Taehyung brought a hand up to smack Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“Hush,” he grumbled, pushing the younger off in favour of taking his hand. “Let’s see the elephants. They’re cooler, anyways.”

 

They spent all day at the zoo, wandering around and seeing as many animals as possible.

As they were leaving, Taehyung spotted an arcade, his eyes brightening.

“Jeongguk! I’m gonna win something,” he decided, not giving the younger a choice, pulling him into the brightly lit room. Games were lining the walls, most of them not that complex.

They spent another hour simply playing arcade games, earning tickets, and flirting.

Jeongguk was soaring, his heart in his throat all day. His new favourite hobby was watching Taehyung as he played the basketball game, his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated.

Once Taehyung declared that they had enough tickets, he brought Jeongguk to the booth and said, “choose!”

“Wait, what?” Jeongguk gaped, glancing towards the excited boy.

“I said to choose one! I wanna get you something,” he giggled, the look on his face so stunningly pure that Jeongguk almost cried.

“The dragon’s kind of cool,” he mumbled, embarrassed, and Taehyung handed over all his tickets, just barely enough for the purple dragon plushie. It was roughly the side of Jeongguk’s head, cartoonish and soft. Taehyung handed it over proudly, grinning so hard that Jeongguk doubted he could see anything.

“Happy birthday, Kookie,” Taehyung giggled and Jeongguk jumped again.

“Wait, how’d you know?” Jeongguk gasped, clutching the small dragon as if it was a lifeline. Taehyung gave him a wicked glance, skipping towards the exit of the arcade merrily. Jeongguk scampered after him, mouth still open slightly.

Once they were outside the zoo, Taehyung looked over at Jeongguk, eyes twinkling.

“I was talking to your friend Jin and he let it slip that your birthday was today,” Taehyung admitted, shivering slightly at the nighttime chill, his breath swirling in front of him. “He also mentioned that you… you’re kind of lonely on your birthdays, so… I wanted to cheer you up!”

Jeongguk had stopped walking, his face slack. Taehyung turned around, eyes wide, his hand squeezing Jeongguk’s.

“I’m sorry if I overstepped, or anything, I… I should have asked first, I know, but–” Taehyung rambled, uncertainty spilling into his voice. Jeongguk cut him off before he could get any more words out.

“Taehyung. Thank you,” he said, voice hoarse with emotion. Taehyung looked up, features strikingly gorgeous in the mixture of the streetlight and moonlight, and… he let out the most heart-achingly cute sneeze Jeongguk had ever heard.

“Way to ruin the moment,” he teased, somewhat glad that the tension had snapped. Taehyung flushed red, nose scrunching up with another kitten sneeze. “C’mon, let’s get home, yeah? You’re freezing out here.”

 

Jeongguk didn’t see Taehyung for a week after that.

They had walked to Jeongguk’s apartment, the younger boy offering over and over to help Taehyung home, the elder refusing adamantly. They’d parted ways, Jeongguk giddy with something akin to love. It was a fantastic birthday, the best one he’d had in years.

But then Taehyung seemed to drop off the face of the Earth.

Every day that passed, Jeongguk would jump at the ring of the bell, would deflate in disappointment when a regular customer walked through the doors.

Eventually, with a lot of pestering from Namjoon and Jin, Jeongguk ended up going to Jimin for help.

“Oh, Jeongguk, what’s up?” Jimin chirped from behind the counter, beaming like usual. Jeongguk sat down at a stool, smiling awkwardly.

“Uh, listen, I was just wondering, where did Taehyung go? I mean, I get if he didn’t wanna have another date, but–” Jeongguk started, his insecurities shining through his voice, but Jimin interrupted.

“No, no, it’s nothing like that! Taehyung really likes you, I promise. He’s just… occupied, is all,” Jimin answered hesitantly. Jeongguk raised an eyebrow.

“Occupied?” Jeongguk repeated. Jimin looked around nervously, chewing on his lip.

“Okay, he– he kind of got… he sort of… okay, you know what, I’m just going to give you his cellphone number, okay? You can text him,” Jimin finally decided, his shoulders slumping, and Jeongguk’s worry spiked.

“Is he okay?” Jeongguk asked, handing over his phone. Jimin shrugged.

“Yes. No. Sort of. Who knows, with him,” Jimin sighed. Now that Jeongguk was focusing, he could see the bags under Jimin’s eyes, the tired way his body was resting against the counter.

“Does this happen a lot?” Jeongguk continued, taking his phone back with a grateful nod. Jimin waved his hands a little.

“Unfortunately, yes. Taehyung isn’t… he isn't as stable as he seems. I know that he looks like literal fucking sunshine but he’s got a lot of baggage that he doesn’t let other people see,” Jimin explained.

Before Jeongguk could get another word in, a customer walked through the doors and Jimin was dismissing him.

“Just text Tae, alright? He’ll explain when he wants to. He really likes you, I can tell, okay?” Jimin called out, tightening his apron and plastering that smile back on his face. Jeongguk stood, staring at his phone, not waiting to send a quick text.

Hey, it’s Jeongguk, Jimin gave me your number. Are you okay?

Jeongguk was silently praying that Jimin hadn’t given him a false number. That’d be embarrassing.

Thankfully, a reply came within a few minutes, just as Jeongguk was turning onto the street of his place.

TaeTae:  yahyah i’m fine!!

TaeTae:  sorry about dropping off the grid like that, i got in an accident ;-;

TaeTae:  but hey i can come over later, if thats okay?! (>д<)

Jeongguk let out a sigh of relief, a small smile creeping onto his face.

Perfect, come over whenever.

I hope you're not planning on walking here if you’re hurt though!!!

TaeTae:  aw, is kookie worried about me?? ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)

No not at all

Of course I am you ass

TaeTae:  kookieeeeee

TaeTae:  i knew you had a heart (/ ‘з’)/

Get here soon, okay?

I missed you

Jeongguk silently cursed himself for sounding so desperate. It was an impulse text, really, one that he regretted immediately.

TaeTae:  ...i missed you too <3

Jeongguk squealed like a teenage girl.

 

“Hey, I– holy shit, Taehyung,” Jeongguk gasped as he opened the door. Taehyung was smiling sheepishly, a deep bruise blossoming across his cheek. His lip was split, too, scabbed over slightly.

“Nice to see you, too,” Taehyung laughed, and Jeongguk observed the limp in his step as Taehyung walked inside.

“Can I ask what happened?” Jeongguk said warily, and Taehyung shrugged, which turned into a wince.

“If you want me to lie to you, sure,” Taehyung sighed. He seemed so much more deflated than all the other times Jeongguk had seen him.

“Have you at least seen a doctor?” Jeongguk asked. “Your limping isn’t very reassuring.”

“No, but I patched myself up. I’m fine, re–”

“Let me help,” Jeongguk insisted. Taehyung pouted, obviously slightly offended.

“Do you doubt my abilities?” he mock-gasped, making Jeongguk snort.

“Yeah, kind of.”

“Excuse you,” Taehyung said, but a playful tone was hidden in his voice. Jeongguk shook his head, leading Taehyung to the bathroom where all of his first-aid supplies were.

“It’s really not that bad,” Taehyung insisted. Jeongguk raised an eyebrow.

“It will be that bad if you let your wounds heal incorrectly. Trust me, Tae, my mom’s a nurse and my dad’s a surgeon,” Jeongguk informed him. Taehyung whistled.

“Wow, impressive. So you must be, like, loaded,” Taehyung gaped. Jeongguk winced.

“Yeah, not really. My parents refuse to pay for anything besides my schooling. I’m on my own aside from that,” Jeongguk revealed, setting to work on gathering supplies. Taehyung laughed, the sound slightly bitter.

“Still, school’s a lot of money, Jeongguk,” Taehyung argued. When Jeongguk looked over at him, there was something distant in his gaze, something that Jeongguk knew was burdening him.

“That’s the thing. Money’s all they have for me. They don’t really approve of my ways,” Jeongguk admitted. Taehyung tilted his head curiously.

“What do you mean? Your major?”

“My major, my life decisions, my sexuality, everything really,” Jeongguk muttered. Taehyung nodded, pondering.

“At least they care,” he said softly, voice so quiet that Jeongguk had to stop his rustling to hear it. “It sounds like they just want the best for you. They’re paying for your school despite it being in a subject they don’t agree with, right? That’s something.”

“You’re right,” Jeongguk agreed, equally as quiet, a cotton ball now in his hand. “You know, you’re a lot smarter than you act, Kim Taehyung.”

“Woah, hold on, that was uncalled for,” Taehyung laughed, and Jeongguk silently cheered at the lift in mood.

“Here, sit on the counter, I need to check your ankle,” Jeongguk commanded. Taehyung jumped up, rolling up his jeans a bit to reveal a very swollen, very bruised ankle, wrapped very poorly.

“How’d you know it was my ankle?” Taehyung gasped, amazed at Jeongguk’s ability. He shrugged, wetting the cotton ball slightly and gingerly removing the bandages.

Cuts were scattered here and there, but it was obviously badly sprained.

“Yeah, you’re a horrible doctor,” Jeongguk hummed, petting the skin lightly with the cotton ball. Taehyung yelped, trying to play it off as a laugh.

“Hey, I’m trying my hardest here okay,” the elder retorted breathily. Jeongguk kept wiping away at the wounds, his other hand rubbing reassuring circles into Taehyung’s knee. Eventually, once the area was cleaned to Jeongguk’s satisfaction, he swapped the cotton for gauze, looking up at Taehyung sheepishly.

“This will probably hurt,” Jeongguk admitted, not giving Taehyung time to respond before pressing it to the sensitive skin.

“Holy mother of fuck please just end me,” Taehyung spluttered out all in one breath. Jeongguk couldn’t help a small chuckle at the other boy’s choice of words.

“Creative,” Jeongguk complimented, wrapping the injured ankle as quickly as possible. Taehyung was hissing, his body unbelievably tense.

Somewhere in the back of Jeongguk’s mind, behind all the worry and interest, there was a thought of seeing Taehyung just as tense, gasping out just as creative curses, but for different reasons.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung asked, and Jeongguk jumped, looking up at Taehyung almost guiltily. He was staring down at the younger boy with his head cocked slightly to the side, lavender hair tousled and sticking to his forehead slightly, a thin layer of sweat shining high on his cheekbones. “You stopped.”

“Shit, sorry,” Jeongguk apologized, finishing up the wrap, pinning it so that it would stay. Taehyung let out a heavy sigh of relief, slumping back so that his head was resting on the mirror, the gorgeous planes of his neck visible, skin pulled taught and–

“Yep, I’m done!” Jeongguk declared loudly, straightening so fast that Taehyung startled, sitting back up.

“Thanks, Kookie!” Taehyung cooed, swinging forward so that his hands rested between his open, dangling legs, leaning towards Jeongguk with that goddamn grin on his face again, the one that could end wars and melt ice. His childish words, his deep baritone voice, his slim dimples, his plush lips, his tender skin and warm eyes– all of this was ruining Jeongguk, weaseling their way inside of his stomach in the form of tiny butterflies, fluttering around anxiously and flying into his lungs and choking him. Jeongguk was suffocating in Taehyung, drowning in all of his quirks and features.

Yet, Jeongguk had never been happier than he was right here, this playful boy sitting in front of him expectantly.

Jeongguk wanted nothing more than to lean forward and voice all of this, to kiss Taehyung until they were both old and gross.

Instead, all he said was, “yeah, yeah.” He distracted himself with the supplies, rustling around again until he had more cotton balls in his fingers.

“Here, give me your face,” Jeongguk demanded. Taehyung did as he was told, leaning forwards even more until Jeongguk could feel his breaths.

“You didn’t disinfect your lip, did you?” Jeongguk scolded. Taehyung pouted again, and from this close Jeongguk could see just how lovely his lips really were; plump and pink and smooth.

“You have to disinfect wounds on your lip? Why?” Taehyung complained, wincing slightly when Jeongguk prodded too hard.

“You just have to,” Jeongguk sighed, slightly amused. Taehyung huffed, rolling his eyes. They were so, so achingly close and it was driving Jeongguk mad. The butterflies in his stomach were trying to escape, wildly crawling up his throat and twisting his gut with a chant of do it, do it, do it. The tension in the air was palpable, both of them silent as Jeongguk worked.

“Okay, I…” Jeongguk started, eyes flicking up for a second from Taehyung’s lips only to get tangled in his eyes.

They were dark, focused on Jeongguk, lids lowered. A blush was settled prettily on his cheeks and his eyelashes fluttered when he blinked, not removing his glare from Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk,” he muttered, voice so deep and inviting that Jeongguk shivered.

“Taehyung,” he returned, somewhat unsteady. Jeongguk watched, captivated, as Taehyung’s tongue escaped his mouth to briefly wet his lips, leaving a wet shine that only fueled on Jeongguk’s desire.

“I kind of want you to kiss me,” he said bluntly, sending a shock throughout Jeongguk’s entire body, which had somehow ended up between Taehyung’s legs, their chests pressed together tightly.

“I kind of want to kiss you,” Jeongguk admitted, a small smile curving onto his face. A hand crept up almost unintentionally, his fingers sliding under Taehyung’s sharp jawline, caressing the skin and cupping his face. Taehyung took that as an invitation, his own long, slender fingers threading into the short hair at the nape of Jeongguk’s neck.

“Hmm. We’ve reached a mutual agreement then?” Taehyung purred, his eyes nearly closed. Jeongguk nodded, the motion sliding their noses together intimately. The words were spoken almost directly into Jeongguk’s parted lips, his breath hitting Jeongguk’s tongue.

Jeongguk’s self restraint snapped. Cautiously, as if testing the waters, he moved forward so that his bottom lip was hardly brushing against Taehyungs. That simple, gentle movement was so intoxicating, so addicting, so caring and tender that Jeongguk didn’t hesitate, reconnecting their lips–

“Jeon Jeongguk, you slippery motherfucker, where are you?” Namjoon’s voice rang out suddenly.

"I have never wanted to kill a man more,” Jeongguk growled, detaching himself from Taehyung and exiting the bathroom.

“What the actual fuck are you doing,” Jeongguk groaned, taking in the sight of the (obviously hammered) pink-haired man.

“You! Yes, I was looking for yo– Oh, hi, Taehyungie! Wow, you look kinda shitty. Except not really ‘cause you’re adorable, but, like, you don’t look as adorable as usual, y’know?” Namjoon rambled. Taehyung giggled, nodding along to Namjoon’s words.

“Thank you?” he responded, more of a question. Namjoon nodded again before frowning in confusion.

“Wait, this isn’t your home. Why are you here?” he asked. Taehyung looked to Jeongguk innocently, eyebrows raised and eyes wide.

“I was just visiting,” Taehyung decided. Namjoon pouted.

“Good, ‘cause Jeonggukkie was all mopey and annoying when you weren’t here,” Namjoon whined. Thankfully, Seokjin burst in then, breathing out a sigh of relief at the sight of Namjoon.

“Jeez, don’t get away from me like that,” he gasped out. Jeongguk was still massaging an oncoming headache.

“Is there a reason for your surprise visit?” Jeongguk asked sharply. Namjoon threw his arms up dramatically.

“Do we need a reason to visit our precious baby? How rude,” Namjoon cried. Jin smiled apologetically.

“We need a place to crash tonight,” Jin explained. Jeongguk groaned again.

“Why is that?”

“Well, um, we–”

“We were sexiled,” Namjoon interrupted. Taehyung snorted out a quiet laugh, still hovering near Jeongguk’s side.

“Oh, nice. The couch is open,” Jeongguk offered. “I’m leaving you two now, please keep your clothes on.”

“Jeongguk!” Jin gasped, whacking Namjoon on the shoulder when he laughed.

“C’mon, Tae,” Jeongguk grumbled, but Taehyung sighed.

“I should go,” he muttered, avoiding Jeongguk’s eyes.

Well, shit, you fucked up, Jeongguk thought, mentally cursing.

“Um, okay, I’ll see you out,” Jeongguk smiled. Taehyung waved bye to Namjoon and Seokjin, sending reassurances to visit again (even though they didn’t live there, damn it.)

“Listen, Taehyung, I–” Jeongguk started, about to apologize, but Taehyung cut him off.

“No, no, it’s okay, really. Trust me, I’d stay if I could,” Taehyung reassured, beaming at Jeongguk in a way that made him trust his words.

“You should swing by the shop soon,” Jeongguk blurted suddenly, blushing. “I mean, if you want? You don’t have to, but, I–“

“Of course,” Taehyung giggled, leaning up to place a soft peck at the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth.

“O-Okay! I mean, uh, yeah,” Jeongguk stuttered. Suave.

“See you then?” Taehyung said, holding out his pinky finger. Jeongguk wrapped his own pinky around Taehyung’s with a grin.

“See you then.”

 

“You seem distracted today,” Jihyo observed, reorganizing a stack of records. “Oddly happy, too.”

“I got more sleep than usual,” Jeongguk lied easily, his foot tapping absentmindedly. It was nearly 8P.M. and Taehyung was yet to appear.

“I’m glad you’re sleeping more! You know, I was starting to get worried about you for a little bit there,” she admitted, though Jeongguk wasn’t really listening, too stuck in his own mind.

“Yeah,” he answered dully. She didn’t take the monotone voice as discouragement, continuing to drone on about something or other.

“You know, I can take over the rest of your shift, if you want. It’s pretty dead anyways,” Jihyo offered. Jeongguk replied quickly this time, alert.

“No, I’m good here,” he practically yelped. Jihyo arched a sculpted brow.

“I think I get it now,” she hummed, a smirk on her face. Jeongguk paled, busying himself with scribbling on a post-it note.

“Hmm?” he urged. Jihyo stood up from a crouch, dusting her hands off on her legs.

“I think you’re excited to use the recording studio,” she giggled and Jeongguk let out a sigh.

“You got me,” he mumbled, giving her a bit of a grin. She blushed, looking away and playing with a strand of hair.

“I know you pretty well, don’t I?” Jihyo said, starting to return to the counter where Jeongguk sat.

“Uh, yeah,” Jeongguk nodded, still smiling politely. Jihyo was standing in front of him now, gaze downwards, but all Jeongguk could think about was how similar their eyelashes looked from this angle. He knew that Jihyo’s lashes were enhanced with makeup, but they were thick and dark and long just like Taehyung’s, pretty and alluring.

“So, Jeongguk, I… You know I like you, right?” she revealed, and Jeongguk choked.

“I- You- Um,” he stammered. “No?”

“Well, I do. So, I…” she trailed off, leaning in close. Jeongguk was frozen, like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Uh–” Jeongguk started, but he couldn’t get any more words out because Jihyo’s lips were pressed awkwardly to his own.

They stayed like that for a few heartbeats, Jeongguk locked in place, Jihyo moving her lips around in some sort of one-sided kiss. Jeongguk was going to pull away when the bell on the door chimed.

“Oh,” a deep voice half-gasped. Jeongguk practically pushed Jihyo away, the sight of Taehyung sending panic shooting through his veins.

“Taehyung–” Jeongguk tried, choking, standing off the stool, trying to get to Taehyung, but the other was already out the door.

“I’m sorry, Jihyo, but I- I have to get him,” Jeongguk called out before running after Taehyung, his hands shaking.

“Tae! Tae, please, wait,” Jeongguk was yelling, willing his feet to carry him faster because Taehyung was leaving him.

“I’m sorry, Jeongguk, I didn’t realize– I’m just… I can’t do this, okay? Not again, I… I’m sorry,” Taehyung uttered out suddenly, still not turned around. The sun was almost completely set, the streetlamps flickering to life above them.

“Taehyung, wait, it’s not like that–” Jeongguk tried, his hand wrapping around Taehyung’s wrist. The elder turned, his face still facing the ground, leaning away from Jeongguk’s touch.

“It never is,” Taehyung croaked, looking up for a second to flash Jeongguk a broken smile, one that wavered around the edges, one that lacked any love or affection or anything Jeongguk was used to seeing.

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk sobbed, his own tears starting to bubble over. “I swear, she kissed me , it didn’t–”

“What are you justifying?” Taehyung laughed, cold and harsh and absolutely terrifying. “We weren’t anything, Jeongguk.”

“How can you say that?” Jeongguk whimpered, pathetically, still gripping onto Taehyung’s wrist like a lifeline.

“It’s the truth. You don’t know anything about me,” Taehyung argued. Jeongguk flinched back from the harsh words.

“I know that you like your coffee extra sweet. I know that your favourite candy is peach rings, and that you eat them on Tuesdays, your movie days. I know that you’ve never watched Bambi without crying and that you hate horror movies but watch them anyways. I know that you like to eat my leftovers, just not anything too salty because you hate the taste of extra-salty things. I know that you feel more comfortable when you’re holding something, whether it be a phone or my hand,” Jeongguk blurted out, content to keep going, but Taehyung was shaking his head.

“Do you know where I live? What kind of family I came from? What I do? I’m not good. I’m not the great person you think I am, okay?” Taehyung snapped, wrenching his wrist away from Jeongguk’s grasp.

“I’ll… I’ll see you around,” Taehyung muttered, turning and leaving, crushing Jeongguk’s heart as he went. The butterflies in his stomach were growing teeth, biting and scratching at him, causing a pain so deep that Jeongguk wished they were never there to begin with. He was drowning in Taehyung again, but this time in his misery, his regret, his anguish, his fear.

“So that’s it?” Jeongguk called out, voice scratchy. Taehyung didn’t stop, arms wrapped around himself as he walked away from the only relationship he’d ever hoped in.

“That’s it,” he returned harshly. Jeongguk felt anger, at himself, at Jihyo, at Taehyung, at everything. The anger welled up inside him as a defense mechanism, automatically trying to replace the panic and the hurt.

“Why won’t you listen to me?!” Jeongguk snapped. Taehyung waved a hand backwards, not even hesitating, continuing down the road alone. Jeongguk’s heart was thundering in his chest, the rabid butterflies aching for Taehyung to come back, for the pain to go away.

Silly butterflies, Jeongguk wanted to tell them, crumbled to his knees, alone in the dark on a sidewalk. He’s not coming back, because I’ve ruined everything.

 

“Jeongguk, are you gonna explain yet?” Seokjin sighed, rubbing his hand over Jeongguk’s spine as the younger sobbed again. He’d returned home, crashing inside in a heap of tears and wailing, seeking out Jin right away. Jeongguk shook his head meekly, curling further into the older man’s warmth.

“I can probably help if you tell me what happened,” Namjoon interjected from the other couch where he sat anxiously, worrying at his lip despite his still somewhat drunkenness. “I know Tae pretty well.”

“I-I was in the sh-shop and Jihyo k-kissed me and I f-froze and he saw and I t-tried to explain but h-he just left and I k-know how bad it looked but I… I think I might be f-falling in love with him a-and I just screwed it all u-up,” Jeongguk explained, so fast that Namjoon and Jin had to try to process what he said.

“Oh, Kook,” Namjoon sighed finally, slumping back. “This is like, the absolute shittiest thing that could ever happen.”

“Namjoon,” Jin snapped, resuming his petting when Jeongguk let out a whine.

“Listen, it’s… I don’t know all the details, but… Taehyung dated some douche awhile back, the kind to blame him for everything and cheat and make the poor kid feel all kinds of insecure. It was almost the same situation, except this other guy meant to kiss other people, and sure as hell made sure that Taehyung found out. Then when Taehyung tried to leave the relationship, this guy would yell at him, call Taehyung selfish, say that it wasn’t how it looked. I don’t know why Tae stayed with him as long as he did,” Namjoon told them. “So, that’s why he reacted that badly, I think.”

“Tae,” Jeongguk whimpered, a fresh wave of tears threatening to spill.

“It’s okay, Jeongguk. Just give him a bit of time, okay? Let him cool down, and then try to talk to him, yeah?” Jin advised softly. Jeongguk sniffled, hiding his face again.

“It hurts,” he mumbled wearily, pathetically, only to be shushed by Jin again.

“You can work it out, don’t worry. Sleep a bit for now.”

And sleep Jeongguk did.

He called in sick to work three days in a row before Yoongi finally snapped and told him to suck it up and start making money again.

Even at work, Jeongguk was out of it. Everything reminded him of Taehyung.

Thankfully, the minute Jeongguk walked into work again Jihyo was at his side, apologizing and asking what happened.

Jeongguk was bitter, at first, caught in the toxic mindset that everything was her fault. He was reluctant to talk to her, too annoyed to indulge her in his issues. But after she pressed, he blurted a curt, “I’m gay,” making her stop mid-sentence.

“Well, I assumed as much after what happened,” was her reply.

“Listen, Jeongguk, I really am sorry about what happened. You should have just told me! It does kind of suck, because I still like you, but it’s not your fault in the slightest. Now look what’s happened,” she sighed. Jeongguk flinched, not meeting her gaze.

“I… I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have blamed you, it’s not your fault that I’m oblivious,” Jeongguk apologized. Jihyo beamed at him, eerily similar to Taehyung.

“So, who is he?” she asked, turning to begin dusting the shelves. “I mean, only if you wanna talk about it.”

“He’s wonderful,” Jeongguk hummed bittersweetly. “He’s got lilac coloured hair, all tousled and wavy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it neat, to be honest. And his eyes are so pretty and narrow, but he wears this eye makeup that makes them all smoky and dark. But his smile, that’s the best part; it’s so bright and… and rectangular, it’s so hard to describe…” When he looked up again, Jihyo was staring at him, an eyebrow arched.

“What?” Jeongguk grumbled, pouting. Jihyo just laughed quietly, shaking her head.

“You really love him, don’t you?” she asked softly. Jeongguk spluttered, a blush rising to his cheeks.

“I- I mean, I haven’t known him for that long, I- I don’t–” Jeongguk started, distressed, but Jihyo waved him off.

“You’re falling for him then,” she corrected, more like a scoff. Jeongguk just rolled his eyes, letting her cackle away and finish the job.

Days turned to a week, a week to two, and still no word from Taehyung. Jeongguk found himself feeling lonely despite constant visits from his friends. He didn’t realize how much he’d become attached until it was all taken away.

One thing he took a liking to was that infamous graffiti artist.

The alley behind his work had been one of the artist’s favourite places for a while, but now Jeongguk took the time to actually appreciate the things painted onto the walls.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he felt like the artist knew Jeongguk’s feelings; over the past few days the art had become dark, painted in only greys and blacks with no traces of pastel. If there was another colour, it was harsh reds and violent greens, slashed across a painting the artist deemed unworthy.

They were sad, the paintings. They portrayed feelings of betrayal and loneliness and pain. It fit so well to Jeongguk’s situation, he began to wonder if maybe Taehyung was the artist all along.

His reunion with Taehyung was unexpected.

Namjoon had managed to convince Jeongguk into going with them to a house party, some dumb excuse to get drunk on a Friday night. Jeongguk had trudged along, changing into jeans for the first time in forever. Yoongi even put some makeup on him, covering the eye-bags and making him look somewhat presentable.

“You know, this could be good for you!” Jin cooed, basically sat in Namjoon’s lap in the back seat. Yoongi was driving, the chosen designated driver, much to his distaste.

“Getting hammered?” Jeongguk sighed, a head resting against the window. Yoongi snorted.

“No, I meant getting out of the house! Having fun!” Jin laughed. (They’d taken a few shots before they left– except Yoongi, of course.) Jeongguk turned to give Jin a half-assed smile and a thumbs up.

The minute Yoongi turned off the car, Namjoon and Seokjin were barreling out, attached at the hip. Jeongguk went to follow when Yoongi placed a hand on his shoulder, halting his movements.

“I’m just gonna warn you, Taehyung’s supposed to be at this party. I’ll try to arrange something with Jimin, yeah? Get you two alone,” Yoongi huffed. Jeongguk blinked a few times, smiling timidly.

“Thank you, Yoongi,” he grinned. Yoongi waved a dismissing hand.

“The only reason I agreed to help was because Taehyung is sad and it makes Jimin sad,” Yoongi grumbled. Jeongguk raised a brow at him.

“So, you and Jimin–”

“Shut it,” Yoongi warned.

“But you–”

“I swear to god, kid, you’re testing me. Scram,” Yoongi said, no actual harshness in his voice. Jeongguk got out of the car, smiling still, and entered the party.

He found Namjoon immediately, the older boy’s pink hair bright in the swarm of people. He considered going to his friends, for a moment, the thought tempting. How easy would it be to push down the anxiety and heartbreak for another night? To forget about Taehyung, to fall into the clutches of alcohol instead?

Jeongguk knew he couldn’t do that the moment he caught sight of Taehyung’s slender body, lanky yet graceful. Jeongguk didn’t recognize him, at first, too used to the wavy lilac hair. Now, it was platinum blond, straightened so that his bangs were nearly in his eyes. Jeongguk’s breath stuck in his throat at the familiar ethereal beauty, caught up in the shape of his back through his t-shirt, the miles and miles of toned legs trapped tightly in ripped jeans, the side-profile so perfect that Jeongguk’s heart longed for him.

His heart ached for a different reason when another boy appeared next to Taehyung’s side, one with a similar wide grin and vibrant attitude, raven black hair bouncing in time with his steps. Dark jealousy wove its way into Jeongguk’s veins, clouding his mind.

A small tap on his shoulder made him jump.

“Oh, hi,” he breathed, glancing down at Jimin’s small form.

“Yeah, hi. Come with me,” he yelled over the music, pulling at Jeongguk’s sleeve. He followed Jimin upstairs, worry gnawing in the pit of his stomach, winding through the bodies while still keeping his eye on the other. They squished into a secluded, thankfully unoccupied bedroom, wasting no time before Jimin was crossing his arms and staring Jeongguk down.

“I’m trying not to be mad at you,” he declared. Jeongguk flinched, a hand rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

“Jimin, I–” Jeongguk started, voice oozing desperation.

“Save it. I don’t know the full story, but I do know– I mean, I hope – that this was just one huge shitty misunderstanding,” Jimin sighed. Jeongguk nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes! Oh, my god, yes. I– Seriously, she even said that she could talk to him, she’d explain everything. I didn’t–” Jeongguk began. Jimin sighed again.

“I know, dude. Chill. Thing is, Taehyung doesn’t know that,” Jimin explained.  “He’s had a… had a really bad dating experience that I’m not going to tell you about because it’s not my business, but in short-form, he got cheated on before. It was a mess. He was a mess. He’s a mess now, too. So talk to him, yeah? I’m gonna chase his skinny ass up here and you two are gonna talk this out.”

“Thanks, Jimin, seriously. I can’t thank you enough,” Jeongguk grinned, resisting the urge to crush him in a hug. Jimin snorted, smacking the side of Jeongguk’s head.

“Yeah, yeah. You ever hurt him again and I’ll end you, got it?” Jimin threatened,and Jeongguk actually felt fear.

“Y-Yes! Of course!” Jeongguk half-yelped, smiling still. He could see now why Yoongi got along with the orange-haired boy. Jimin bit his tongue, wavering at the door.

“You’re good for him, Jeongguk. You make him happy. I haven’t seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you,” he admitted, making Jeongguk’s grin soften at the edges, taking on a gentle fondness that made Jimin happy he hadn’t killed the younger. “You two work this out.”

Jeongguk waited in the empty bedroom for about ten minutes before a knock at the door scared him half to death.

“Yo, Jimin? You in there? We gotta go, dude, Hoseok–”

“Taehyung?” Jeongguk half-whispered, opening the door. Taehyung gaped, his eyes wide, taking in the sight of Jeongguk. They stared at each other with longing and sorrow and regret, the emotions such a confusing mixture of happy and sad that they both froze for a few moments.

Jeongguk felt his heart constrict as he watched the realization dawn on Taehyung’s face, watched him flicker between hope and betrayal and heartbreak.

“If you’re here to apologize, I’ve heard it before,” Taehyung sighed. Jeongguk shook his head.

“I– Listen, I swear it was a misunderstanding. Tae, I’ve missed you so much, I–” Jeongguk uttered, stopping when he saw Taehyung flinch. The elder seemed to pause, looking over his shoulder as if expecting someone to be there. He finally let out a breath, running a hand through his newly-blond locks.

“I missed you, too, Kookie. I’m sorry but I… I can’t talk about this right now, okay? We– look, call me later, and we’ll talk, I promise,” Taehyung practically pleaded. Jeongguk ground his teeth together, shaking his head.

“Why? Where do you have to go?” he asked. Taehyung looked conflicted, starting to back away slowly.

“I- I’ll explain it later, I need– Call me, okay? We’ll talk then–” Taehyung stuttered, already out the door.

Jeongguk took a few steps after him, the word “wait” on his tongue, but it shriveled up and died the moment he saw Taehyung and the black-haired boy from before maneuvering their way to the front door. The jealousy was back, this time mingling with the sting of rejection.

It didn’t take long for Jeongguk to get smashed.

He sat alone on a secluded couch, taking shot after shot, downing drink after drink. Occasionally, Namjoon or Seokjin or someone else he knew would wander over, timidly asking if he was doing alright. Jeongguk would wave them off idly, a mantra of ‘I can’t talk about this right now, okay?’ replaying in his mind, the image of Taehyung with that other boy seared into his brain.

Eventually, the thundering music and haze of smoke became insufferable and Jeongguk found himself pushing through the hordes of bodies, stumbling out of the house and into the street.

The cold wind on his skin was refreshing, providing a healthy distraction that Jeongguk needed. He still tripped over his feet occasionally, walking through the streets with his head down, intent on going home and moping.

The night was surprisingly silent, aside from straggling cars. Jeongguk tilted his head up towards the sky, watching the stars glitter and shine above him. The butterflies in his body were hardly moving now, the last remaining few starting to fall towards the ground, where other butterfly corpses lay scattered and decaying.

It wasn’t until five minutes later that he caught sight of Taehyung’s newly blond hair further down the street.

He was walking with that other boy, the one that Jeongguk was coming to despise. Half drunk, Jeongguk started after them in a jog, his eyes almost tunnel-visioned on Taehyung’s back. He didn’t notice the men exiting the alley and hardly stopped when he bumped into one of them.

“Oh, s-sorry,” Jeongguk slurred before continuing towards Taehyung. A firm hand on his shoulder dragged him back unwillingly.

“Oi, where are ya going in such a hurry, pretty boy?” the man cackled, his grip on Jeongguk’s shoulder bruising. His friends were all snickering, snide smirks on their faces.

“I need to catch up to my friends,” Jeongguk said, sobering up somewhat at the intensity of the situation. Fear was starting to bubble up, the realization that he was in trouble causing his heart to sputter. He was an able fighter; he wasn’t weak by any means, but even he couldn’t win a one-on-four fight against men larger than he was.

“Oh yeah? Your friend won’t mind if we teach ya a bit of a lesson, boy?” the man snarled, suddenly angry again. Jeongguk flinched back, shaking his head.

“I said I was sorry, okay?” he pleaded, trying his hardest to diffuse the situation. The man, it seemed, either had a very bad day or was honestly that mad at Jeongguk because before the boy could comprehend what was happening, a fist was colliding with his face.

“Don’t start this,” Jeongguk growled when the man grabbed a hold of his collar.

“It’s already started,” the man chuckled, his breath reeking of booze. Jeongguk pushed the man’s hand away, disgusted, and tried to get out of his way once more. Past the men, Taehyung was starting to cross the street, only getting further and further away from Jeongguk.

He lost sight of Taehyung when a fist landed in his gut, winding him and making him squeeze his eyes shut. A loud cry escaped Jeongguk’s throat as he fell, the man’s boot jabbing into his ribcage with a harsh kick. He wasn’t coordinated enough to fight back, and even if he was, the man was persistent in his attack, unrelenting and harsh.  A strange sense of calm washed over Jeongguk, amidst all the terror and pain. He lay there, hardly putting up a fight as the man attacked him repeatedly. Jeongguk’s mind wandered, tuning out the laughs and harsh words being sent his way.

What if I deserve this ?’ he thought idly. ‘ What if this is punishment for what I did to Tae?

Jeongguk didn’t have time to linger on the thought. The attacks stopped all at once, leaving Jeongguk curled into a little ball on the sidewalk. Scuffling and grunting was heard in the background and when Jeongguk actually managed to pry his eyes open, he saw Tae with a bloody nose, his arm to the man’s throat, holding him against the wall.

“You don’t touch him again, yeah?” Taehyung snapped, his voice lower and more intimidating than Jeongguk had ever heard it. (It would have been incredibly sexy if the circumstances were different.)

“L-Listen–” the guy started, still trying to be tough, but cut off when Taehyung pushed him against the wall even harder, his arm preventing the man’s words.

“Did I stutter? Don’t. Touch. Him,” Taehyung spat, dropping his arm once the man had nodded. Taehyung kicked at the man as he scrambled away, pausing for a moment to lift his unconscious friend off the ground. Jeongguk noticed the other boy Taehyung was with shaking out his knuckles, obviously recovering from their fight. Jeongguk suddenly felt some of his resentment break off and melt into gratitude.

“Jeongguk!” Taehyung screeched, beside Jeongguk in an instant, all of the threatening poses and dark voice gone. “Oh, you idiot, why’d you just take it like that?!”

“Tae,” was all Jeongguk could think to say, because Taehyung was there, Taehyung’s hands were on him again. The streetlight above was casting a cliche halo of light around him and it might have been something out of a drama if not for the blood running over Taehyung’s lips and down his chin, the dirt smeared across his cheek, the bruise forming on his jaw and the blackness starting to appear over his eye.

Even that didn’t dull Jeongguk’s urge to wrap himself around Taehyung and never let go.

“Oh, Jesus, please tell me you don’t have a concussion,” Taehyung groaned, his fingers pressing against Jeongguk’s temple tenderly. Jeongguk was wide-eyed, staring at Taehyung, taking in his worried eyes and his thin cheekbones and the way the muscles in his neck moved as he breathed roughly from the fight.

“You’re beautiful,” Jeongguk blurted, relishing in the way Taehyung’s eyes widened even further and he spluttered a bit.

“Jeong–” Taehyung began, but Jeongguk didn’t let him finish, instead choosing to mash their lips together.

It wasn’t as graceful as Jeongguk wanted, and he sort of missed Taehyung’s lips, but Taehyung understood what Jeongguk was aiming for.

“Easy there,” Taehyung  laughed, pulling away further when Jeongguk chased his lips. Jeongguk pouted, already missing the warmth of Taehyung’s lips.  

“I like kissing you,” Jeongguk whined, making Taehyung laugh once again. Jeongguk simply drowned in the noise.

“Yeah, well, maybe we can try again when you’re not completely out of it, hmm?” Taehyung said, voice deep and calming. “We need to get you to a hospital.”  Jeongguk pouted even more, about to protest, but a nauseous feeling started rising in his throat.

“Oh no,” he murmured before sitting up and leaning away from Taehyung, the contents of his stomach spilling onto the sidewalk. Taehyung just rubbed his back soothingly, whispering comforting words to him in between sending commands to the other guy with them.

“It’s okay, Kookie, Hoseok went to get a car, we’re gonna get you to the hospital,” Taehyung cooed, his slender hands kneading out Jeongguk’s tense muscles and running through his sweaty hair. He was done puking and Taehyung had drawn Jeongguk into a laying position so that his pounding head rested on Tae’s thighs. Jeongguk was tempted to close his eyes, to fall asleep to the unearthly feeling of Taehyung’s fingers twirling his hair tenderly and swirling over his arms. Every time his eyes fluttered close, Taehyung would tap his cheek gently, remind him kindly to stay awake. Jeongguk wasn’t sure why; he just wanted to sleep, to escape from the thundering throbbing in his head and the ache in his ribs.

“Hoseok’s almost here, Kookie, you’re doing so well,” Taehyung said, snapping Jeongguk’s wandering eyes back to his bloody face. Suddenly concerned, Jeongguk lifted a hand to wipe at the dried blood.

“You’re hurt,” he muttered, eyebrows furrowing in concentration. Taehyung let out a choked laugh, one that made Jeongguk even more worried. His eyes were a tad glossy when he leaned down towards Jeongguk and placed a sweet kiss on his forehead.

“I’m alright, baby, I promise. Worry about yourself, yeah?” Taehyung chuckled hoarsely. Jeongguk was going to protest when a car horn cut him off.

“Okay, that’s Hoseok. I’m going to lift you up, is that okay?” Taehyung asked. Jeongguk went to nod but decided that he should reply verbally instead.

“Yes,” he mumbled, wincing when Taehyung moved from under him.

“Tell me if you need a break,” Taehyung demanded. Jeongguk hummed in agreement, flinching the moment Taehyung started to pick him up. Every movement was like a new spike driving into his brain. Taehyung was moving as smoothly as he could, careful not to jostle Jeongguk. By the time they made it to the car, Jeongguk was breathing a bit quicker, biting his lip against the headache.

“It’s done now, you’re okay,” Taehyung lulled, resuming the same position as before in the back of the car. Hoseok began driving (slowly, thank god) the second Taehyung closed the door.

The drive to the hospital started off silent, but then Jeongguk remembered that he and Taehyung never really made up. The guilt washed over him again as he looked up at Taehyung’s bruised, worried face.

“Tae,” Jeongguk sniffled suddenly, tears filling his eyes against his will. He just felt so overwhelmed; Taehyung was there and he was so kind and caring and beautiful that Jeongguk couldn’t handle it.

“Hey, woah, what’s wrong? What hurts?” Taehyung panicked slightly, hands hovering over Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk blinked away the tears quickly.

“No, no, I’m okay, I just–  I’m so sorry,” he whispered shakily. Taehyung looked slightly lost as he wiped the stray tears from Jeongguk’s cheeks, nodding.

“It’s okay, Kookie, don’t cry,” Taehyung said, choking on a laugh. “Oh, wow, see? Now I’m gonna cry, stop it.”

“N-No, I- I promise, Jihyo k-kissed me and it didn’t mean anything because I wanted to go out with y-you and I missed you so m-much–” Jeongguk continued, crying even more. Taehyung was shaking his head, laughing awkwardly through his own teary eyes.

“Shh, it’s okay, I’m over it,” Taehyung soothed, smoothing Jeongguk’s sweaty hair off his forehead. Jeongguk sniffled a few times, his head throbbing even more one he settled down.

“So you’re n-not mad?” Jeongguk whimpered, rather pathetically and Taehyung made a small noise in the back of his throat.

“Of course not, Kook. It’s alright, relax now, okay? Do you want me to keep talking?” Taehyung asked, to which Jeongguk murmured a quiet “yes.” Tae talked for the rest of the ride, keeping Jeongguk awake and calm.

When they did get to the hospital, Hoseok ran inside and brought out a few nurses with a stretcher. Jeongguk normally would have protested at the attention, would have pretended that he was fine, but to be honest, his headache was really bothering him and he just wanted to sleep . He let his eyes slip shut slowly, let the buzzing noises in the background fade out and his consciousness drift off.

He didn’t know how much time had passed before someone was opening his eyes and shining a light in them.

“Wassit,” Jeongguk slurred, coming back to consciousness– and the pain in his head.

“Hello, Jeongguk, I’m a doctor. I just need you to tell me how you feel,” the doctor said softly. Jeongguk scrunched his nose up.

“‘M head hurts,” he whined. The doctor retreated, letting Jeongguk curl up again. Dully, he noticed that he was in a bed instead of in a car or on a stretcher, but he brushed the thought away quickly, sleep being far more alluring.

 

When Jeongguk woke up, the headache was standing just as strong, though he could think somewhat rationally. He realised that he was in a hospital and that a nurse was clanging breakfast trays around on a cart. Once she noticed he was awake, she smiled sweetly, scurrying over.

“Good morning! My name is Hani, I’m a nurse! You’re at a hospital. You came here last night after a mugging attempt. You have some bruising and a concussion, but nothing serious. We were just waiting for you to wake up before sending you off with your friend. Your parents were informed of the incident, though because of the long distance and the mildness of the injury, they opted to let your friend take care of you,” the nurse explained quickly. Jeongguk sent her a weak, grateful smile, accepting the clothes she handed over. Jeongguk saw that they were, in fact, his clothes. Taehyung must have grabbed them from his apartment.

After he was dressed and fed, the nurse sat him in a wheelchair and led him outside.

Much to Jeongguk’s surprise, Taehyung was in the waiting room, sitting in one of the stiff chairs, surrounded by Red Bull cans and empty coffee cups. He was in the same dirty clothes as the night before, his hair was still a trainwreck and his face was screaming exhaustion, but a band-aid was plastered on his cheek and his scrapes were obviously cleaned.

“Hey, Tae,” Hani giggled as they approached. Taehyung was grinning at them, like the actual fucking sun , despite the deep bags under his eyes and the way he was practically swaying on his feet once he stood.

“Jeonggukkie,” Taehyung sighed, the name so full of relief and weariness that Jeongguk’s heart ached.

“I’m okay,” Jeongguk assured immediately, forcing out another smile for Taehyung’s sake. The elder boy nodded, rubbing a hand over his eyes.

“Go on, sign all the papers, then you boys can go home,” Hani instructed sweetly, taking a coffee cup out of Taehyung’s hands. Taehyung sent a few more glances at Jeongguk as he made his way to the front desk and began filling out forms.

“He stayed here all night, you know. Didn’t sleep at all,” Hani said knowingly from where she was tidying up. Jeongguk grinned, a mixture of worry and fondness, and blushed a bit. He decided he liked this nurse.

“That’s just like him,” he whispered, his voice crackly. Hani plopped down in a seat.

“I tried flirting with him, you know,” she admitted, and suddenly Jeongguk was taking back everything he’d ever said about him liking Hani. He must have made a face, because the nurse giggled again, waving a hand.

“Relax, he wasn’t having it. He was worried about you , talked about you. It’s cute, really,” she sighed. “But it’s a shame. He’s really hot.” Jeongguk didn’t have time to say anything back because Taehyung was returning, the grin still plastered on his face.

“Ready to go?” he murmured, helping Jeongguk up from the wheelchair. They thanked the doctors and the nurses and made their way outside, into Hoseok’s car, and eventually to Jeongguk’s house.

Jeongguk didn’t want to admit that he slept most the way there.

Or that he fell asleep again the moment Taehyung settled him back into his own bed.

 

He woke up every once in awhile, either from Taehyung shaking him gently to check his condition or a door closing. Sometimes, Taehyung would jostle him awake and feed him some food that Jeongguk choked down, half-awake. For the most part, though, he slept. A lot.

 

The next time Jeongguk woke up fully, it was to the smell of food. He sat up slowly, testing out the feeling in his head; it was definitely less intense and more tolerable, but still present. An ever-present ache was prickling at his ribcage from where he was kicked, but it wasn’t anything that he couldn’t handle.

He shuffled out of bed, taking in his surroundings; he was in fresh pj’s, his room was clean for once, and it was fucking hot . He picked up more tiny things as he made his way to the kitchen, like a blanket that Jeongguk knew he didn’t own, or the smell of laundry soap that wasn’t his usual brand.

He found his phone on top of his dresser, countless notifications from his friends for him to read. Many get well soon ’s and holy shit u dumbass call me when ur awake ’s, but mostly just Jin spamming him until Taehyung had answered with “ hello jin it’s tae, kookie’s fine u can come over.

Taehyung, speaking of, was standing in front of the stove, humming under his breath as he cooked, wearing nothing but a pair of low-cut sweatpants. Jeongguk thought he might actually faint as he took in the dips and curves of Taehyung’s back, the slight layer of sweat beading on his shoulders and the tiny moles scattered around his golden skin.

A loud yelp startled Jeongguk out of his haze. Taehyung was staring at him, wide-eyed in surprise.

“Holy shit you’re awake! Um, how do you feel?” Taehyung asked nervously. Jeongguk itched his head.

“Hot,” he admitted slyly, letting his eyes trail over Taehyung’s exposed chest. He wasn’t muscular, per say, but he was definitely toned with a flawlessly smooth and lean stomach and prominent hipbones. Taehyung blushed, waving his spatula around.

“I, uh, couldn’t figure out how your AC worked and y-yeah,” Taehyung stuttered slightly. Jeongguk rolled his eyes, shuffling his way over to the thermostat. He was about to return to Taehyung when he noticed the papers stacked up on his coffee table. Frowning, he went back to where Taehyung was cooking.

“Hey, Tae? What’s all this?” Jeongguk asked, surprised to find that his voice was hardly more than a croak. Taehyung understood, thankfully, and responded without stopping his cooking.

“That’s all your schoolwork from the past few days, Jin watched you while I went to classes. I knew one of your classmates so I thought I’d go in and copy them down for you! I might have missed a little bit though,” Taehyung said. Jeongguk’s jaw was on the floor as he flipped through; the notes were written and highlighted in certain places, done neatly and clearly.

“How long was I out for?” Jeongguk wondered, his voice coming back. Taehyung paused.

“What day is it?”

“Um… your phone says Thursday.”

“Then that means you were out of it for four days, Kookie!” Taehyung exclaimed, finally turning around. Now that Jeongguk was more awake, he noticed how utterly wrecked Taehyung looked. He was pale, the bags under his eyes nearly bruises, the cuts and scrapes on his face still healing.

“Tae, when did you get the time for all this?” he gaped. Taehyung shrugged.

“Doesn’t matter. You should go back to resting, anyways; I couldn’t get you to eat much while you were half awake, you must be starving–” Taehyung began, obviously changing the subject. Jeongguk frowned, his headache starting to return from being up for so long.

“After we eat, we’re napping again,” Jeongguk decided, though he wasn’t tired in the slightest. Taehyung frowned.

“But I had plans to meet with your teacher–”

“When was the last time you slept?” Jeongguk interrupted. Taehyung’s frown deepened.

“Last night, I–”

“For how long?” Jeongguk cut him off again. Taehyung shrunk a bit, knowing he was caught.

“A few hours, I don’t–”

“You’re cancelling the meeting.”

“Jeongguk, I–”

“Please?” he pleaded, jutting out his lower lip. Taehyung sighed in defeat.

“Fine, but you have to eat, okay?” Taehyung said, to which Jeongguk nodded eagerly; he really was starving.

Their meal was nice. Taehyung had put on one of Jeongguk’s hoodies, the sleeves hanging over his fingers adorably. They sat nestled on the couch, side-by-side despite the rest of the seat being empty. Taehyung spoke throughout the whole thing, probably noticing Jeongguk’s somewhat spaced out state. Jeongguk simply watched him as he ate, admiration bubbling in his stomach disgustingly. The butterflies didn’t start to rise slowly again; they just exploded back to life, smothering him even worse than before.

Taehyung had taken care of him for four days. Had fed him, made sure he was alive, got notes for him, even after what he (thought) Jeongguk did.

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk interjected in the middle of his sentence. Taehyung’s eyes widened owlishly and he cut off.

“What’s wrong? Am I talking too much? Are you hurt?” Taehyung began immediately. Jeongguk laughed quietly, shaking his head.

“I think I love you,” he said, finally, taking a huge weight off his chest. Taehyung’s cheeks were dusted lightly with pink, his jaw dropped slightly so that his mouth formed a small ‘o’. “And I really want to kiss you.”

“I- You- But- Yes?” Taehyung stammered, still not comprehending the situation. Jeongguk was grinning like an idiot as he leaned in and (finally, finally) kissed Taehyung properly.

It was warm and soft and sweet, everything that Taehyung was, and Jeongguk was so utterly caught in Taehyung that he didn’t know what to do. He was kissing Kim fucking Taehyung, the Cute Guy, the one who played Mario Kart with him till  4 A.M, the one who dyed his hair every five months, the one who nursed Jeongguk back to health.

The one he was in love with.

The one who was currently kissing him back.

The one whose tongue was currently sweeping over Jeongguk’s lips languidly holy shit.

They pulled away after a while, breathing heavily, staring at eachother with heavy lidded eyes and lovesick, dopey grins. Jeongguk hardly even felt the pain in his skull anymore; all he could feel was Taehyung’s hands around his neck, the way Taehyung’s slender fingers drew lazy circles at the base of his skull.

Apparently, at some point, Taehyung had also slipped into Jeongguk’s lap, because their chests were touching, Taehyung’s butt on Jeongguk’s thighs, though it wasn’t sexual. It was comfortable, lazy and sweet and so adoring that the butterflies in Jeongguk’s stomach were about to combust.

“So,” Taehyung whispered, voice light and teasing, “you liiiiiiiike me.”

“Yeah no shit,” Jeongguk chuckled back, raising a hand to trace it over Taehyung’s face like he’d always wanted to. “I really like you. A lot. I have since the first time we went out, Tae.”

“Me too,” Taehyung giggled, ducking his head to hide his fucking cute blush. He brought one of his too-long sleeves to his face timidly and that was when Jeongguk noticed that he was crying.

“Ah, no, please don’t cry,” Jeongguk panicked, cupping Taehyung’s slightly damp cheeks and wiping away the stray tears.

“No, I- I just- I’m happy. And tired. I don’t know,” Taehyung laughed shakily, hiding his face in the crook of Jeongguk’s neck.

“C’mon, let’s sleep a bit, yeah?” Jeongguk sighed fondly, running his hands through blond hair with something akin to awe in his eyes. Taehyung nodded sleepily, leaning back to yawn and stretch. Jeongguk watched as he scrunched up his nose, shook his head a little and stood up, holding his hand out to help Jeongguk up.

Once they were settled in bed, Taehyung snuggled into Jeongguk’s chest, Jeongguk felt tiredness somehow creeping up on him again. Taehyung’s warmth and smooth breaths were soothing and so completely perfect that Jeongguk was still grinning like an idiot.

As he was about to drift off, Taehyung perked up suddenly, leaning up so that his nose was almost brushing Jeongguk’s.

“Wait, are we dating?!” he asked frantically. Jeongguk relaxed after the words, letting himself squeeze Taehyung a bit tighter.

“Well, Kim Taehyung, would you like to be my boyfriend?” Jeongguk fired back, an eyebrow raised. Taehyung blinked a few times, pretending to consider it.

“Hmm. Well, I guess,” he sighed, the smirk on his face betraying his serious act. Tae laughed again, leaning down to kiss Jeongguk again, tender and chaste.

“Goodnight, boyfriend,” Taehyung muttered, slightly muffled from where his face was smushed in Jeongguk’s side. Jeongguk grinned again, kissing the top of Taehyung’s head.

“‘Night, boyfriend.”

 

“Fucking finally,” Jimin screeched, slapping Jeongguk on the back harshly. Jeongguk flinched, the movement jostling his head.

“Easy, ChimChim, he’s still hurt,” Taehyung defended immediately. Namjoon snorted from across the table.

They were all at the coffee shop, a “celebratory get together,” as Seokjin had called it. When Taehyung and Jeongguk had shyly told their friends, none of them seemed surprised. Yoongi called them disgusting, Namjoon and Seokjin awww'd, Taehyung’s friend Hoseok (who had easily fit into their group) had just grinned knowingly. Jimin, who was working when the bomb was dropped, had found out when he brought everyone their drinks and saw Taehyung clinging to Jeongguk’s side.

“We all knew it would happen, you two are just goddamn idiots. It just took Jeongguk getting his drunk ass beat for you two to figure things out,” Namjoon sighed teasingly. Taehyung pouted at him, resting his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“Yah, don’t ruin my good mood, you bully,” Taehyung growled, sticking out his tongue. Seokjin clapped, grinning.

“I’m happy for you guys! Jeongguk’s been much happier since he met you, Tae. Honestly, he can be so moody–”

“Okay mom, thanks,” Jeongguk interrupted loudly. Everyone laughed, pulling a grin to Jeongguk’s lips.

He felt so content, the kind of giddiness that makes your stomach flip and  your whole body warm. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this whole in his life before.

That’s what it was now. Before Taehyung and After Taehyung.

Before Taehyung was easy. No disturbances. No alterations. No complications.

But there was also loneliness. Distance.

After Taehyung was busy, somewhat difficult but so right, so complete it made Jeongguk dizzy. He came out of his shell; he was more open and warm, more compassionate, more happy. Taehyung made him a better version of himself.

The warm feeling prompted Jeongguk to wrap his arm around Taehyung’s shoulders and pull him even closer, planting another kiss to his forehead. Taehyung blushed, shocked, while a mingle of “aww” and “eww” played in the background.

Jeongguk just smiled on.

 

“I’m kind of nervous,” Jihyo laughed shakily, tapping her foot in her chair. Jeongguk smiled at her.

“Don’t worry. He’s really sweet, and I already explained everything,” Jeongguk reassured. Jihyo still looked unsure, biting her lip. Jeongguk continued reorganizing the shelf, the silence between them comfortable. They’d become something like friends throughout the whole experience.

They both jumped when the bell on the door rang. Jeongguk lit up at the sight of his boyfriend, clad in black jeans, a white t-shirt and a grey cardigan. Jeongguk had been waiting for him for awhile, somewhat in suspense after a vague “i have smthing to show u :D” text.

“Hey, babe,” Taehyung greeted with a grin, though it seemed a bit tense. His stare flickered over to Jihyo as he reached Jeongguk. “Sorry I’m late.”

“No problem, I was just finishing anyways,” Jeongguk replied, letting Taehyung pull him close and kiss him. It was dragged out, Taehyung tugging him in again when he tried to draw back.

When Taehyung finally decided that he’d claimed Jeongguk enough, he wrapped a possessive arm around Jeongguk’s waist and beamed.

“Hello! I’m Kim Taehyung, Kookie’s boyfriend,” he introduced. Jihyo was red in the face, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Um, nice to meet you,” she muttered. Jeongguk almost felt bad for her; she looked terrified. Taehyung must have seen that too, because he toned down his stare somewhat, his smile softening.

“Hey, don’t worry about everything that happened, yeah? It’s in the past,” Taehyung laughed, in that soothing baritone he mastered so well, the one that had Jeongguk wrapped around his finger. Jihyo brightened at his words, sending her own timid smile.

“Thank you so much, Taehyung,” she sighed. “To be honest, you and Jeongguk are adorable together. He’s whipped.”

“Everyone seems to say that,” Taehyung teased, glancing up at Jeongguk smugly.

“Yeah, yeah, let’s go,” Jeongguk grumbled with no real malice in his voice. Taehyung giggled, waving bye to Jihyo animatedly and starting to skip out the door.

They walked as Taehyung chatted about how his classes went and how yummy his lunch was. Jeongguk listened, as he always did, captivated. He hardly noticed when Taehyung began slowing down, but he did notice when Taehyung took a deep breath.

“Okay. So. Remember on our first date when you said you wanted to see my art?” he said, biting his lip. Jeongguk nodded. “Well. I’m gonna show you it, okay?”

“Oh,” was all Jeongguk could manage. Taehyung tugged his hand forwards, down an alleyway, and of course Jeongguk knew. He knew what this meant. He’d known for awhile.

In front of him, there was a painting of a person’s silhouette, falling with its limbs outstretched. Silhouettes of butterflies were flying out of the person’s chest and colours were splattered all around it, soft pastels. As usual, a bright red “V” was in the bottom corner. It was breathtaking, upbeat, something that Jeongguk had never seen in this artist before. He looked over at Taehyung, eyes wide.

“So, uh, I made this,” Taehyung stated, obviously. Jeongguk let out a laugh, leaning forward to touch the wall gently. When he took his fingers back, a bit of the paint was dotted there, still wet.

“Taehyung, this is– your art is unbelievable,” Jeongguk managed, still staring at the wall with interest. Butterflies. How eerily symbolic.

“I mean, um, it’s not really–”

“Taehyung. It’s unreal, honestly. If you can do this on a brick wall, what can you do on paper?” Jeongguk half-gasped. Taehyung shook his head, pink dusting across his cheeks.

“I just wanted to show you cause, like, Hoseok and I go out some nights when he can’t sleep or if my mom’s really bad, and– shit, I mean she, um. She’s not right, after my dad, and, like, painting helps, but sometimes the cops show and we gotta run for it, so,” Taehyung stammered. Jeongguk had torn his eyes away from the wall to look at Taehyun with concern. His odd behavior was starting to make sense.

“Is she okay?” Jeongguk asked, moving closer to his boyfriend. “Are you okay?”

“I’m used to it. I, uh. I need to tell you this because I can’t keep making excuses about things, yeah?” Taehyung breathed, eyes downcast. Jeongguk nodded, his thumb stroking over Taehyung’s knuckles soothingly. He’d never seen Taehyung this fidgety and off-put before.

“So, I told you that my dad died. After that, my mom was pretty messed up, ‘n I couldn’t afford art supplies anymore, ‘cause she was blowing all our money on booze and medication that she didn’t need. She got sad and angry. She never… never hit me or anything, but she just… acts like I’m not here. I’d almost rather her hit me, y’know? It would be better than… than this,” Taehyung explained quickly, his eyes not looking at Jeongguk. “Anyways, I started buying spray paint from the dollar store, and, well… yeah.”

“Tae, I’m sorry,” Jeongguk said, the only thing that came to mind, and hugged Taehyung tightly. Taehyung heaved in a sigh, resting his head oh Jeongguk’s shoulder. Jeongguk was piecing together every time Taehyung had declined a walk home or having Jeongguk pick him up. It made sense now.

“Thank you for telling me,” Jeongguk said after a moment to which Taehyung laughed.

“Figured I should,” he chuckled, though there wasn’t much humour to it. “While the mood’s still dark, though, there’s somewhere else I wanted to take you.”

 

Jeongguk was a bit surprised when Taehyung led him through the gates of a cemetary. It made sense when he settled down on the grass in front of a particular stone, his aura still dampened. Jeongguk said nothing, sitting down beside him and rubbing a hand over his back, waiting for Taehyung to say something.

“Kookie,” he said finally. “I’d like you to meet my dad.”

“Hello, Mr. Kim,” Jeongguk replied without hesitation, much to Taehyung’s surprise. He smiled after a second, curling into Jeongguk’s side further.

“It’s his birthday today,” Taehyung whispered. “I always visit on his birthdays.”

They sat in silence for a little bit, Taehyung occasionally speaking to the gravestone in a reserved voice. Jeongguk piped in where he felt necessary, but mostly just continued to comfort Taehyung to the best of his ability.

“Thank you for coming,” Taehyung muttered as they started to leave. “Even though I didn’t really ask.”

“I would’ve come anyways, silly,” Jeongguk reassured softly. Taehyung giggled.

“I know. But still. Thank you. For everything,” Taehyung chuckled. He paused a moment before adding a quiet, “I love you.”

Jeongguk sweared all the butterflies had an actual aneurysm.

“I-I love you too, TaeTae,” Jeongguk teased. Taehyung blushed immediately, smacking Jeongguk’s shoulder with his free hand.

“Hey! That’s just mean,” he whined through the grin on his face. Jeongguk just laughed back.

He decided that the disturbances, alterations and complications that made up Kim Taehyung were anything but. They were perfection. They were the beat of his pulse under the fragile skin of his wrist as their fingers entwined together. They were the glistening tears forming in the corners of his eyes when they finally did watch Bambi.  They were the glorious sound of his squeals when Jeongguk threw a snowball his way and his giggles when Jeongguk tackled him into the icy pile of fluff and tickled him breathless. They were every whispered “I love you” against his ear that Jeongguk never thought he’d hear. They were him, and they were everything that Jeon Jeongguk wanted in his life. Forever.